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Rising Stars featured in UofSC Symphony Orchestra Concert

Chloe Madison Johnston and Nicolás Morales Espitia perform on Feb. 11

The University of South Carolina Symphony Orchestra concert, Rising Stars, takes place at the Koger Center for the Arts on February 11 at 7:30 p.m. Valet parking is available. This concert introduces you to two of the university’s Concerto-Aria Competition winners, Chloe Madison Johnston, soprano, and Juan Nicolás Morales Espitia, piano. Conductors on this concert are Neil Casey, Baha Lee and Isaac Ormaza-Vera.

The evening concert opens with Leonard Bernstein’s Overture to Candide, possibly the composer’s most frequently performed piece. Collaborators Bernstein and Lillian Hellman turned their attention to Voltaire’s novella "Candide" in 1954 and worked intermittently on it for two years. They wanted a work to make an artistic statement against political intolerance in American society. Critics called it brilliant, and Bernstein’s often witty, sometimes tender music has been considered the work’s greatest asset.

Charles Gounod’s earliest thoughts of composing an opera on Goethe’s Faust came to him as a Prix de Rome winner, studying in the Italian capital. Completed in the fall of 1858, Gounod’s Faust received its premiere the following spring at Paris’s Théâtre Lyrique. Its success led to performances in other French cities and revised versions in Germany and Italy.

Competition winner soprano Chloe Madison Johnston reflects, "As a performer, I am truly grateful for each opportunity that I am given to step out onto a stage. Performing with the UofSC Symphony has been a dream of mine for many years, and I am elated to be able to share this exceptional repertoire with such accomplished musicians during my final semester at the University."

Ms. Johnston sings Gounod's famous “Jewel Song” – “Ah! je ris de me voir” (Ah! I laugh to see myself). The coloratura aria, an elaborate ornamentation of a vocal melody, captures the character’s joyful ecstasy as she revels in how beautiful a gift of jewels makes her look and how she’ll now be taken for a princess.

Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand in D major is performed by competition winner Juan Nicolas Morales Espitia. Basking in the success of his 1928 U.S. tour and the great popularity of Bolero, Ravel received an unusual commission for a piano concerto for the left hand alone from an Austrian pianist who had lost his right arm in World War I. After spending time as a prisoner of war in Siberia, he returned to Vienna determined to rebuild a musical life.

In contrast to Ravel’s cheerful demeanor of his G major Concerto, the Left-Hand Concerto projects a dark atmosphere and uses effects borrowed from jazz. Ravel may have featured jazz’s lighter side in the lively second section of the Left-Hand Concerto, but elsewhere he dramatically drew on some of the more soulful qualities of jazz. Ravel’s achievement in creating a texture for one hand that sounds as full as if it were played by two is universally admired; no other left-hand composition has come close to the Concerto’s success.

Igor Stravinsky’s “No Word from Tom” from The Rake’s Progress and Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio espagnol, op. 34, round out the evening’s concert.

Tickets on Sale

UofSC Students - free with student ID (must be picked up from the Koger before 5:00 p.m. on the day of the performance). General public - $30; senior citizen/USC faculty and staff - $25; children under 18 and non-USC students with ID - $5. Call 803-251-2222 or Koger Box Office, corner of Greene and Park Streets (M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) or online at kogercenterforthearts.com.

About the University of South Carolina’s Concerto-Aria Competition Winners

Juan Nicolás Morales Espitia photoJuan Nicolás Morales Espitia received his bachelor of music degree from the Universidad de los Andes (Colombia), while being honored with its highest distinction, summa cum laude. He was the recipient of a Fulbright scholarship in 2014 that allowed him to pursue a master of music degree at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music. Mr. Morales is a candidate for the degree of doctor of musical arts in piano pedagogy, with the support of the University of South Carolina and Universidad de los Andes’ Teachers Development Program. He has received top prizes at local and international competitions – the XV UIS National Piano Competition (Colombia), the XII Musicalia International Piano Competition (Cuba), and the V Maria Clara Cullel International Piano Competition (Costa Rica). Mr. Morales has performed as a soloist in two seasons – 2006 and 2019 – with the Bogota Philharmonic Orchestra (Colombia), one of the most prominent orchestras in the region. Mr. Morales is a student of Mr. Phillip Bush since 2017.
Chloe Madison JohnstonChloe Madison Johnston from Clover, South Carolina, is a senior at the University of South Carolina pursuing a bachelor’s degree of music in vocal performance. She has received private voice instruction and coaching from professors Tina Milhorn Stallard, Donald Gray and Lynn Kompass at UofSC. She has ranked at the National Association of Teachers of Singing in South Carolina and regionally, and was selected to perform in the UofSC School of Music Vocal Honor’s Recital in 2017 and 2018. She has participated in two international choir tours, and performed as a featured soprano soloist in Mozart’s Vesperae Solennes de Confessore and Poulenc’s Gloria with the University of South Carolina Concert Choir. Ms. Johnston was asked to perform as an ensemble member and featured dancer in Fidelio, HMS Pinafore, and In the Heights with Glow Lyric Theatre in 2018 in Greenville, SC, and has been cast in Opera at USC’s productions as Julie Jordan in Carousel, Amelia in Amelia al Ballo, the Blue Dragonfly in The Cunning Little Vixen, and ensemble in Bernstein’s Mass.


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